Drinkaware urges healthy coping at Christmas as household tensions and home drinking on the rise

Drinkaware, the national charity working to prevent and reduce alcohol misuse in Ireland, is reporting that high levels of household tension have contributed to an increase in alcohol consumption in households during lockdown, in particular those with younger children.

As the nation prepares to emerge from lockdown and into the Christmas season, Drinkaware is urging adults, and especially parents, to develop healthy coping strategies that don’t involve alcohol. The charity is directing people to its website for information and also sharing helpful tips from Behavioural Psychologist, Padraig Walsh.

New data from Drinkaware reveals that families with pre-school-aged children were more likely to report they and others in their household were drinking more during lockdown (21%). This is the highest across all life stages including homes with children in primary school (18%) and teenagers (13%), and the national average (12%).

1 in 5 (21%) households with pre-school-aged children reported binge drinking on at least a weekly basis. This level of binge drinking is significantly higher than reported in homes with primary school children (10%) and teenagers (6%) and versus the national average (15%).

The motivations for drinking cited by adults in households with pre-school-aged children include:

  • 3 in 5 reported increased stress/tension at home during lockdown
  • 1 in 3 reported drinking ‘to cheer up when in a bad mood or stressed’ (vs 23% with primary school children, 16% with teenagers, 23% national average)
  • 22% reported drinking ‘because it helps when you’re depressed or anxious’ (vs 15% with primary school children, 16% with teenagers, 17% national average)

The data is taken from an in-depth cross-analysis of Drinkaware’s Alcohol and Covid-19 Barometer. This study was conducted by Behaviour and Attitudes at the height of the initial lockdown in April 2020 with a national representative sample of 1,000 adults. This is the first time that this data set from the cross-analysis has been published.

Behavioural Psychologist, Padraig Walsh, advises: “Changes in our normal routines and work practices, uncertainties about the future along with smaller social circles and fewer distractions have contributed to increased tensions for all of us this year.

It is vital to pre-plan and pre-commit to our coping strategies together as a household coming into the holiday period. Habit changes are more effective when they’re easy to do. And when we commit to one or two habits to change instead of trying to do more, we’re more likely to succeed.

Research tells us that recognising the sources of our stress and consciously committing to one or two practical, easily implementable coping strategies help us to deal with even the most difficult of circumstances.

Maintaining these new habits throughout this holiday period will be crucial, particularly when the normal social routines and outlets of Christmas are curtailed, and homes may feel even more claustrophobic than usual. This is why making the commitment to use healthy coping strategies together and providing that household support is so important.”

Sheena Horgan, Drinkaware CEO, commented: “Tensions are understandably high at the moment and inevitably will rise further as we get closer to Christmas. So, we need to find healthy ways to cope with that stress and uncertainty. For parents this is a double-edged sword as many are experiencing heightened stress, and are also the main role models for their children when it comes to demonstrating healthy coping, and alcohol consumption behaviours”. 

It is essential that adults in households with children are aware of their drinking and also the low-risk alcohol guidelines. Drinking outside of these and/or binge drinking, not only impacts their health and wellbeing, and exacerbates anxiety and depression, but also negatively impacts others in the home. Children and teenagers learn from the example set by their parents and other adult family members and with unprecedented levels of family time experienced during 2020, this influence is even stronger, so let’s make it a really positive one this Christmas.”